Favorite Quotes

"The walls of books around him, dense with the past, formed a kind of insulation against the present world and its disasters."

— Ross MacDonald

Reader's Link - November 2013 Staff Picks Archive

In the room with Louis

Oh Play That Thing

Title: Oh Play That Thing
By: Roddy Doyle

A beautiful performance by actor Christian Conn, who creates the gorgeous Irish voices, varied New York accents, and a believable rendition of Louis Armstrong. Conn gives every word its worth, adding meaningful richness to the often spare dialogue. Oh Play That Thing is the second title in The Last Roundup trilogy that began with A Star Called Henry. I recommend that you do what I didn’t, read the first title before listening to Oh Play That Thing, as there are character references and flashbacks that you will want to understand. I was sucked into the story anyway by the language, the depiction of American culture in the 1920’s, and Conn’s performance. I was appalled and intrigued by the Henry’s experiences on the run from Irish hitmen ("I walked until my ears felt very far from home"). He’s full of himself, "stretching the day to new limits, forcing new seconds into every minute," a foolhardy but gutsy risk-taker whom one can’t help applauding even as one deplores his behavior.

It’s a wonderful fiction to hear for the first time. And the second time? I felt like I was in the room with Henry and Louis, that’s how entrancing the reading is.

While listening to this book, you might also listen to some Louis Armstrong performances from that period. The Okeh, Columbia & RCA Victor recordings, 1925-1933 includes a number of songs mentioned in the book. And try to visualize the naughty dance scene (track 36 in the MP3 audiobook) to Gershwin’s “Sweet and Low Down,” also recorded in 1925 by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction,audiobook
Posted by April on Nov. 26, 2013 at 8 a.m.

Real Magic

The Snow Child

Title: The Snow Child
By: Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child is the first novel by Alaskan Eowyn Ivey. Set in Alaska in the 1920s, it is a retelling of a Russian folktale. In the traditional tale, a childless couple makes a little girl out of snow, and she comes to life. In Ivey’s novel, hardworking homesteaders Mabel and Jack make a snowgirl; but does she really come to life? Or is Faina, the girl they come to love, just a half-wild neighbor child? Ivey leaves this question open to the end of the novel. Realists can enjoy Ivey’s vivid description of the Alaskan landscape and wildlife and the hardships of homesteading in that lonely setting. Fans of magical realism will enjoy the ambiguity of the story. Is Faina real, or just a figment of Mabel’s imagination? And if she is real, where did she come from? Readers will have to make up their own minds. Having thoroughly enjoyed this first effort from Eowyn Ivey, I hope she will follow it up with something just as magical.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction
Posted by Logophile on Nov. 25, 2013 at 8:30 a.m.


W is for Wasted

Title: W is for Wasted
By: Sue Grafton

I have to confess I was not a Sue Grafton fan. For some reason, I used to be turned off by her formulaic, alphabetically ordered treatments of titles, not to mention her typecast characters and plot-driven story lines in the Kinsey Millhone mystery series. In response to public requests, SCPL has recently purchased all of Grafton’s available titles in unabridged CD and digital formats so as to upgrade its spotty and abridged Grafton collection.

I understand that mystery readers like to revisit their favorite authors and characters from time to time in a systematic fashion. I also understand that Sue Grafton’s PIs (private investigators), who operate in both California and Nevada, have many followers. But what is the real fascination with Sue Grafton, which has lasted over a span of more than three decades? Out of curiosity, I began with G is for Gumshoe and immediately fell under the spell of Kinsey Millhone. I wanted to know more about her past and future. So I went back to the very beginning, A is for Alibi (1982), when Kinsey, then 32, had just launched her PI career. Her latest, W is for Wasted (2013) enables readers to see that not only is Kinsey more mature and experienced in her investigation skills, but, more importantly, that Sue Grafton has developed Kinsey’s social consciousness towards homelessness and the competitive PI profession.

There is an additional bonus to listening to Sue Grafton, for the audio rendition is performed by two of the best female narrators, Mary Peiffer (A-N) and Judy Kaye (O-W). Listeners have identified their voices with Kinsey Millhone the same way we identify Maggie Smith with Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey.

View similarly tagged posts: mystery,audiobook
Posted by Hui-Lan on Nov. 25, 2013 at 8 a.m.

Many voices

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

Title: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
By: David Mitchell

This is a beautifully interpreted performance of a romantic, imaginative historical fiction by David Mitchell, an author with a deep interest in Japan. During the Edo period, when the entire country is closed to foreigners, only the small island outpost Dejima permits a few Dutch traders to live and trade with local Japanese officials from nearby Nagasaki. Jacob DeZoet arrives from Holland to audit the Dutch East India Company accounts and uncovers much corruption. His keen intelligence does not always make him a good judge of situations and he lands in trouble despite his usually upright behavior. He is attracted to a studious Japanese woman, Orito Aibagawa, a doctor’s daughter and accomplished midwife. But Japanese subjects are not allowed to leave Japan, and Europeans are only permitted courtesans or “Dejima wives.” This book, enriched with relevant historical detail, becomes a gripping story with horrifying twists. The dialog is witty and ironic, and the characterization of the voices adds even more to the experience. Jonathan Aris skillfully provides each male character with a different voice, also helpful for tracking the many characters on Dejima. Paula Wilcox is a sensitive reader for Orito and other female characters in the nunnery where Orito is taken against her will. And here David Mitchell departs from historical fiction and enters gothic fantasy for a time. It is a rich and rewarding reading.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction,audiobook
Posted by April on Nov. 25, 2013 at 8 a.m.

A real person in a magical world


Title: Graceling
By: Kristin Cashore

Throughout the seven kingdoms, there are some people who are born with a special skill, called a Grace, who are known by their different colored eyes. Anyone with a Grace is both sought-after and feared. Katsa is notorious throughout the Middluns for her Grace, which is killing. Since Katsa was a small child, the king has used her to produce fear throughout his kingdom. When a Graced fighter named Po comes to the Middluns, he and Katsa become friends. Katsa and Po soon make some terrible discoveries about a distant kingdom. Determined to uncover the truth, they embark on a journey to find out what’s really happening in the seven kingdoms. What they discover is not at all what they expected. But when the truth is finally exposed, will Katsa be able to save herself and everyone who’s important to her?

Graceling is a story of bravery, mystery, and discovering that what other people think of you may not be true. Katsa seems like a real person set against a magical world where nothing is as it first appears to be.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction,teen fiction
Posted by pughc on Nov. 24, 2013 at 9:48 a.m.

You can('t?) go home again


Title: Redliners
By: David Drake

Reading the first few pages of Redliners, I thought, "Blech. War times in space." Not my favorite; but, stubborn as I am, I persevered. After the initial bout of guns, battlements, encroaching baddie aliens and godlike war heroes, we enter a completely different story, one about redemption and humanity. To be sure, there are robots, a killer planet, and daring escapades; but the significance of this book is the story of what happens to individuals so scarred by war and so distanced from their previous civilian lives that they are incapable of being reinstated into society. Or are they? David Drake served during the Vietnam War, and many of his books center on his experiences, his understanding of war. As a veteran, this is his imaginary solution to a problem that he himself has experienced. Sidebar of significance: Do not judge this book by its cartoon man cover. For serious.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction,science fiction
Posted by aufdermaurm on Nov. 24, 2013 at 9:39 a.m.

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